Owning a firearm is a basic right protected by our Constitution. However, there are laws designed to make sure that firearms don’t fall into the wrong hands, and many criminal offenses carry stiffer penalties when firearms and other weapons are used to commit them.
People Who Cannot Own or Possess Firearms in South Carolina
Under federal law (18 U.S.C. 922), felons are strictly prohibited from having guns of any kind. Beyond this, South Carolina law also generally has the following prohibitions on handgun ownership, in particular. Keep in mind that there are a lot of exceptions and nuances to each rule, so it’s best to check with an attorney if you are in doubt about your specific rights.
- Minors under the age of 18 (except if in the military and on duty);
- Anyone convicted of a crime of violence (murder, kidnapping, rape, assault, domestic abuse, etc.);
- People on Probation / Parole (in most circumstances);
- Those Receiving Drug or alcohol Addiction Treatment (in limited situations);
- Anyone Adjudicated Mentally Incompetent by a Court of Law; and
- Anyone Ordered to Surrender Firearms by a Court of Law.
Special Rules for Carrying a Handgun in South Carolina
Under Section 16-23-20 of the South Carolina Code, you generally can’t carry a handgun in the state, but the law has 16 exceptions, ranging from law enforcement to proper storage in a vehicle. Just about anyone can lawfully meet at least one of the exceptions, provided they are otherwise fit to possess a firearm.
Domestic Violence and Guns
Given the potential threat to innocent victims, there are state and federal laws designed to protect domestic abuse victims. Section 16-25-30 of the South Carolina Code makes it unlawful to possess a firearm if you’ve been convicted of certain domestic violence offenses.
Likewise, in 1996, the Lautenberg Amendment was passed, which amended the applicable federal statute on firearm ownership. As currently written, there is no exception for military or law enforcement. Thus, if you are convicted of domestic violence (even a misdemeanor), you will likely not be allowed to continue your military or law enforcement career.
Committing Crimes With a Weapon
Sometimes, weapons are used while committing otherwise minor crimes, but this can seriously increase the sentence. For instance, assault and battery in the third degree is a misdemeanor that carries up to a 30 day jail term. It’s generally used for minor assault cases where the injuries are mild or moderate. But if you commit the offense while in possession of a firearm, it can add up to a 12-month prison term. It also will trigger other provisions that may bar you from possessing a handgun in the future.
In some cases, prosecutors may bring more serious charges, like attempted murder, when an assault was committed using a firearm. It’s important to have an attorney review the facts of the case with you to unpack all of the possible charges and scenarios that you could face.
Defending Against Weapons Charges
If you are charged of a weapons offense in the low country, do not plead guilty until you’ve spoken to an experienced Charleston criminal defense attorney. Let the David Aylor Law Offices help you through the complicated maze of weapons laws. Your basic rights and freedom depend on you having experienced guidance. Don’t take chances; call today.
David Aylor is a Criminal Defense Attorney who practices in Charleston, Walterboro, and Myrtle Beach, SC. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 11 years. David Aylor believes in defending the accused. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.